NFL Bionic Man: Building the Perfect Running Back
Back in the 1970s, there was a show called The Six Million Dollar Man. At that time, $6 million was a lot of money; but in today’s athletic world, $6 million seems the norm. In the show, Steve Austin, a former astronaut, is involved in a horrific accident. Lying on his death bed, scientists decide to experiment with Austin and insert bionic components into his body as replacements.
Thinking of that particular show prompted me to consider building the perfect running back. Of course, this article is not about life and death, I just considered a parallel creation by taking the best of the following backs and combining those attributes in order to build the perfect back.
The idea does not sound remote when you think about genetic alteration, and if it could be done one would have to consider the following.
You would need to consider speed, strength, vision, blocking and, finally, receiving.
This article will attempt to look at five running backs currently in the game whose primary strength is one of the attributes above. It is not to say this running back is better than the other. The idea is to build the perfect running back by pulling together the most prevalent strength that runner has.
Without further ado, let’s put this bionic running back together.
Speed: Chris Johnson
When a player runs a 4.24 at the combine and then backs that up by zipping through defensive lines on his way to long runs, it’s easy to see why having Chris Johnson’s speed is deadly.
Since his draft in 2008, Johnson has rushed for more than 4,500 yards for a 5.0 YPC average, caught 137 balls and has scored 38 total touchdowns.
There is no denying Johnson’s speed, and he has shown an uncanny elusiveness in controlling that speed, making him a very unique running back.
Strength: Adrian Peterson
With several of these backs, we could say that we have the complete back. The one who maintains a high level for all of these attributes, Adrian Peterson could certainly be considered the most complete back in the NFL.
And, being voted No. 3 on the 2011 NFL Top Players list, as voted on by players, is a pretty strong indicator that “All Day’s” opponents feel the same.
When you look at Adrian Peterson, the image screams prototype NFL back. Proportionally, you can see the legs, the calves, the torso and the arms all seem to point to someone well put together and genetically blessed. Add speed, vision and the ability to catch, and you may have the most complete back in the NFL.
One knock on Peterson would still have to be his blocking, and therefore that also plays into his vision not being top notch either. Sometimes it’s not about knowing who you need to block, but a lot about seeing the guy at the last second and feeling where the pressure is coming from.
However, if those are Peterson’s shortfalls, we’ll take it. In 2010, he cut down significantly on his fumbles, so hopefully that label is gone for him.
Vision (Tie): Frank Gore, SF 49ers and DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers
Why do I have two men here? Well, both guys are 5'9", 217 lbs, and both are relatively similar in running styles. And, both have an uncanny commonness of attributes.
In 2010, Williams was saddled with the injury bugaboo and was only able to get his hands on the ball a total of 98 times (87 carries and 11 receptions). He only saw action in six games.
It should be said that when healthy, Williams is a top runner in the league and one of his strong attributes is his vision.
For Gore, it is much the same. The seven-year veteran out of the U, aka Miami Hurricanes, has been a steady performer for the 49ers. He has toted the rock 1,371 times for 6,414 yards and 35 TDs. How many times have we seen him embarrass a defender who thought he had him dead to rights?
If a coach was looking for an elusive back with great vision, there is no doubt that Williams and Gore would certainly be in the conversation.
Blocking: Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants
Pass-blocking is one of those lost arts, yet greatly treasured by quarterbacks. A running back who can pick up a blitz is a valued commodity. Some backs are so bad at it, though, the offense shows its hand by removing that back for a more credible blocking back; talk about being predictable.
According to Pro Football Focus and their intensive research, Ahmad Bradshaw comes out on top based on his number of possible pass-blocking plays and the number of sacks or quarterback pressures given up on his blocking opportunities.
Bradshaw is an effective runner but, as a pass-blocker, he becomes a more valued commodity to the Giants passing effectiveness. Did you hear that, Eli?
Receiving: Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams
Steven Jackson was drafted in 2004 by the Rams and for seven years has been a stable workhorse for a team mired in mediocrity for years since their heyday as the Best Show on Turf.
At 6'2", 236 lbs, Jackson is in that Peterson mold in terms of impressive build, and Jackson has had to endure the dreaded eight-men-in-the-box syndrome for many years.
He is very close to being the complete back, but I am going to hand him the trophy in this particular article as an excellent receiver out of the backfield.
There may be some better than Jackson, but they are limited in other areas and I thought it appropriate to give a shout out to one of the better backs in the league.
Here are some stats to chew on: Jackson has 327 receptions for 2,670 yards and an 8.2 YPC. He also has 12 touchdowns.
I am sure there are some out there who feel there were other players left off this list, but consider I had five areas to cover and could only choose five. I even cheated on one and covered two backs.
Thank you for tuning into The Bionic Back, join us next week when we put together the perfect quarterback.
As always, comments welcome.